August 11, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The head of Darfur’s joint peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said that a UN team will arrive in Darfur within two weeks to investigate allegations made by the mission’s former spokesperson Aicha Elbasri that the mission covered up crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers by Sudanese government and other parties in the restive region.
- UNAMID chief and Darfur joint chief mediator Mohamed Ibn Chambas speaks at a press conference in Khartoum on 11 August 2014 (Photo: UNAMID/Albert Gonzalez Farran)
Elbasri, who resigned from her post in April 2013, revealed that the mission had misinformed the UN by withholding important details about Darfur.
UNAMID has observed the government forces indiscriminately bombing entire villages, targeting civilian and military targets alike. However, these observations are never publicly reported in the regular updates by the UN secretary-general to the UNSC,” she said.
She reported that the UN peacekeeping mission did not tell the world that the Khartoum government failed to disarm the Janjaweed militias; that it, conversely, reintegrated them into paramilitary forces under new names, and let them continue committing their widespread, systematic attacks directed against the civilian population in Darfur.
Chambas told reporters on Monday that after these allegations, the UN Security Council (UNSC) asked the secretary-general to “find out the truth about the matter”. He further said that last week he met with the members of the investigation committee
“I met this team in New York when I was there and I showed them that the mission has nothing to hide on this issue and we welcome any such visit by the committee and also I assured them that they will enjoy our full cooperation,” he said.
He further said the meeting may arrive to Darfur next week or the week after.
On 7 August, Chambas briefed the UNSC on the political and security developments in Darfur as well as measures taken by UNAMID to implement the strategic priorities requested by the Council in its resolution 2148 (2014).
He said that fighting between government forces and armed groups was reduced considerably in the past months and that the Sudanese government withdrew the Rapid Support Force (RSF) from active operations in Darfur.
The UNAMID’s head pointed that the upsurge in intra and inter-communal violence, mainly between tribes competing for resources, continues in many parts of Darfur.
The Ghanaian diplomat also stated that insecurity, criminal activities, armed groups and militias are a challenge to the implementation of UNAMID’s mandate and impede the activities of humanitarian agencies.
He said that the humanitarian situation remains very dire, saying that more than 30% of the residents of the troubled region had fled their native villages.
Darfur has been a flashpoint for lawlessness and violence since the eruption of an insurgency in 2003.
These mainly non-Arab tribes accuse Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his government of neglecting and marginalising them.
The United Nations estimates as many as 300,000 people have been killed and almost 3 million people have been displaced during the ongoing conflict. According to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced.
GOVERNMENT, REBELS TO MEET
The UN official said that he is coordinating with the lead mediator for the African Union, Thabo Mbeki, and the secretary-general’s special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Haile Menkerios, to hold a meeting between delegates from the Sudanese government and rebel groups.
He was keen to say that this coordination comes in implementation of a UNSC decision aksing them to “to work in synergy”., adding that “nothing definite has been agreed”.
He disclosed that Mbeki will visit Khartoum in the coming weeks to discuss the issue.
Different sources said that Mbeki and Menkerios will visit Khartoum to discuss with president Bashir ways to bring peace in Sudan.
Last week, Chambas told the UNSC they preparatory meeting will “explore ways of addressing humanitarian and security situation in Darfur; deliberate on how the parties can bridge their differences and make progress towards a comprehensive settlement of the Darfur conflict and the possibility of a unified mediation framework”.
The joint mediator urged the rebel groups to join the national dialogue initiative launched by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last January, considering it a historic opportunity to bring wars and problems facing Sudan to an end.
The UNAMID head praised the role played by Mbeki, pointing he could play a pivotal role in resolving the Darfur crisis in cooperation with Qatar and the African Union.
He told reporters he hasn’t read the text of the Paris Declaration signed between the National Umma Party (NUP) and the rebel alliance of the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) but urged all parties to seize the opportunity of national dialogue to achieve peace in Sudan.
When asked about the security situation and the 2015 elections, he said the security situation represents a true challenge for holding elections in Darfur next April, pointing that “it is always preferred under any circumstances for elections to be held when peace and security prevails”.
The national electoral body announced last week that the elections will begin on 2 April 2015 despite calls by the opposition parties to postpone it and to form an interim government.
RAID ON AL-SALAM CAMP
Last Tuesday, a joint force from the security apparatus in South Darfur state on last week stormed Al-Salam camp for displaced persons, 15km south-east of the state’s capital Nyala in search for fugitive offenders.
When asked about this raid and arrest of several civilians, Chambas said maintaining law and order is the responsibility of the Sudanese authorities, underscoring that that UNAMID’s role is to “ensure that the activities on law enforcement agencies are carried out without infringement of the rights of innocent civilians specially vulnerable communities in IDP camps”.
Local authorities said the move came within the framework of the emergency order imposed last month, in a bid to curb criminal activities carried out by armed gangs.
The commissioner of Nyala locality, Abdel-Rahman Hussein Mohamed Gardoud, said that more than 10 offenders were arrested inside the camp, as well as large quantities of illegal drugs, weapons, and ammunition.
The UNAMID chief said that IDPs should observe law and avoid weapons possession inside the camps.
“We hope that on the other hand residents of IDP camps can understand and do understand that possession of weapons, carrying of weapons is not allowed in IDP camps under international humanitarian law,” he said.
He further said that it’s the responsibility of local leaders (sheikhs) to ensure that the camps are not used to hide weapons, and vowed to educate them what is permissible in these camps and what is not.
He added they will continue to work with the security services tasked with law enforcement to respect “the civic and human rights of the citizens and also respecting due process of law”.
The UN official strongly denied reports that a UNAMID staff member caught the deadly Ebola virus, stressing that such reports are nothing but rumours.
“There isn’t a single case of infection, not even a suspicion of an infection with Ebola,” he emphasised when he was asked about reports saying some UNAMID personnel are infected with Ebola.
He further said the joint mission has taken a number of measures to prevent the risks related to Ebola among which that all UNAMID personnel, travelling to and from the countries where there is Ebola have to undergo strict medical screening procedure for the virus.
On 7 August, UNAMID issued a statement saying it monitors the Ebola outbreak and directed that its personnel travelling to and from West Africa have to undergo strict medical procedures.